Our Guide to The Top Things to Do in Algarve
Our look at some of the best activities in the south of Portugal
What is it about Algarve and its unrivalled ability to draw Brits and other Northern Europeans from their colder climes? Well, I suppose we can start with the rugged coastline, the sandy bays (which number around 100) and the wide-open spaces. But there’s something more to Algarve; an extra ingredient that stems from the rich culture and diversity. The people are welcoming, and have a fascinating past elucidated by the museums and colonial town plazas of the area. In terms of activity, the region is ripe for hiking, as well as all sorts of water sports. You’ll trail through the restaurants, getting a sense of the local cuisine (Piri Piri chicken existed before Nandos, you know). The area is also the perfect place to take the kids with all sorts of family activities, from traipsing along the boardwalks to splashing down the slides of the water parks. And here at Plum Guide, we've put our expert knowledge to good use and thrown the very best of them into this guide, so without further ado, let us present to you the top things to do in Algarve.
Enjoy embracing the history and culture
Yes, we’ll get to the beaches in a minute, give us a second. First, let us just soak in the glory of Algarve’s rich history. It passed through the Roman Empire, and endured the reigns of the Visigoths and the Moors, picking up fascinating influences and cultural quirks along the way. Stroll through the cobbled lanes of Old Town Faro and check out the impressive colonial edifices. Explore the museums so you can show off your new-found knowledge to everyone back home. The Museu de Portimão is a highlight, teaching visitors about the history of sardines.
Work up a tan at the beach
With more than 100 beaches spread across the coastline, it's no surprise that Algarve is attracting Brits at electric speed. The Praia São Rafael is often considered the brightest of the bunch. Take out a kayak and dine at the restaurant in this picturesque setting. Other top sandy strands include the Ponta da Piedade and the Praia de Benagil. Indulge in all sorts of water sports with your family at the various beaches and prepare to extend your stay as you search for any excuse to delay the flight home.
Embark on memorable expeditions
Perched on the western cape of mainland Europe, the Portuguese are famed for their expeditions. Well, it’s time you concocted your own trips for a holiday to remember. Take a boat trip from Tavira to the Animaris Ilha Deserta, and relish in the utter serenity on its beach. Go hiking along the cliff tops of the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail for some of the best views in the country, and take a trip to the Cerro da Vila archaeological ruins to combine your expedition with the fascinating history of the area.
Treat the family to an exciting day out
While a visit to the old towns and archaeological attractions can evince something of an esoteric side to your holiday, the kids will be having none of that. For them, the Aquashow Park is greater than all of the Seven Wonders of the World combined. Watch them zip down the slides and splash into the water pools. You can also go to the Slide & Slash Park, or see the dolphin show at the Zoomarine Algarve. Try go-karting at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve, where you can see professional races. For families, there are almost too many things to do in Algarve.
Try traditional Portuguese food
If you like seafood, you’re in for a treat. For fine dining, go for a romantic meal with views of the bay at the Windmill restaurant, which describes itself as 'adults only'. (That sounds somewhat salacious, but it isn’t). Try the Portuguese delights at the Al Quimia, and go for the international options at the Avenida Restaurante. Explore the towns, and try the Peri Peri chicken in its natural home of Portugal. Tuck into the tasty Pastel de Nata pastry-custard dishes that are a source of great pride for the locals.
Wander along the harbours and boardwalks
The various quaint towns scattered across the coast of this scenic region are home to countless marinas packed with deluxe yachts. Go out for dinner in one of the ports, such as the Marina de Vilamoura, and walk off your meal in the harbour afterwards. Picking out your favourites from the lines of exclusive vessels is simultaneously one of the most envy-inducing yet enjoyable things to do in Algarve. Walk along the Alvor Boardwalk, spotting the range of birds, and amble along the Carvoeiro Boardwalk for excellent cliff top views of a place you'll never want to leave behind.